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Topic: Steve is a Thing (Read 67 times) previous topic - next topic

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Steve is a Thing
How does something so noticeable, which has been visible above many populated areas for as long as they have been populated, go unnoticed by science for so long? Amazing.

Mystery of Purple Lights in Sky Solved With Help From Citizen Scientists
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Scientists' understanding of Steve changed that night Bourassa snapped his pictures. Bourassa wasn't the only one observing Steve. Ground-based cameras called all-sky cameras, run by the University of Calgary and University of California, Berkeley, took pictures of large areas of the sky and captured Steve and the auroral display far to the north. From space, ESA's (the European Space Agency) Swarm satellite just happened to be passing over the exact area at the same time and documented Steve.

For the first time, scientists had ground and satellite views of Steve.

The study highlights one key quality of Steve: Steve is not a normal aurora. Auroras occur globally in an oval shape, last hours and appear primarily in greens, blues and reds. Citizen science reports showed Steve is purple with a green picket fence structure that waves. It is a line with a beginning and end. People have observed Steve for 20 minutes to 1 hour before it disappears.

The uniqueness of Steve is in the details. While Steve goes through the same large-scale creation process as an aurora, it travels along different magnetic field lines than the aurora. All-sky cameras showed that Steve appears at much lower latitudes. That means the charged particles that create Steve connect to magnetic field lines that are closer to Earth's equator, hence why Steve is often seen in southern Canada.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about Steve appeared in the satellite data. The data showed that Steve comprises a fast moving stream of extremely hot particles called a sub auroral ion drift, or SAID. Scientists have studied SAIDs since the 1970s but never knew there was an accompanying visual effect.

As for the name "Steve" given by the citizen scientists? The team is keeping it as an homage to its initial name and discoverers. But now it is STEVE, short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.
  • Last Edit: March 15, 2018, 02:33:03 PM by Autonemesis